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Milwaukee gets D on latest Financial State of the Cities Report

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(The Center Square) – Milwaukee does not get a passing grade on the latest deep dive into city finances across the country.

Truth In Accounting released its annual Financial State of the Cities report, giving Milwaukee a D.

“Milwaukee’s financial condition worsened by $403.8 million, resulting in a Taxpayer Burden of $15,300, earning a ‘D’ grade from Truth in Accounting,” the report states.

Truth In Accounting says Milwaukee has $1.3 billion to pay $4.4 billion in bills. Those bills include $1.2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and another $1.2 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare benefits.

“Milwaukee had set aside only 79 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and no money set aside for promised retiree healthcare benefits,” the report adds.

Executive Vice President at the Institute for Reforming Government, Chris Reader, told The Center Square those numbers should worry Milwaukee taxpayers.

“It looks like the burden per Milwaukee taxpayer has more than doubled in the eight years of this report, from $6,800 in 2015 to $15,300 now,” Reader said. “The city also continues to slide down the rankings, from low 50s (of 75) to 68th. That should be unacceptable to taxpayers in Milwaukee.”

The Truth In Accounting report does not include the new money that Milwaukee will get from its new 2% sales tax. The city estimates it will receive nearly $190 million from that tax each year.

Reader said Milwaukee’s mayor advocated for the tax as a way to pay down Milwaukee’s pension debt and keep the city from going bankrupt. But he’s not solid.

“Some will see this and say it’s why higher taxes are needed. To us, it shows that spending restraint is needed at City Hall, just as it’s needed in Madison and Washington,” Reader added.

While Milwaukee is in the bottom 10, 68th, in the Truth In Accounting report, there are cities that are worse.

New York City has the highest taxpayer burden in the report at over $61,800, followed by Chicago at $42,900, and Honolulu at $24,200.

“At least Milwaukee’s 68th ranking is better than Chicago!,” Reader said.

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